Germany Dioxin Food Scandal Closes 4700 Farms

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Germany Dioxin Food Scandal Closes 4700 Farms From Contaminated Feed

Germany dioxin food scandal has been widened Friday, as more than 4,700 farms were closed or shut down by regional authorities after testing showed that the animal feed was contaminated by a chemical that is directly linked to causing cancer. All the while fears were growing that the contamination could have entered the food supply chain much earlier than previously thought, as testing on animal fat at the firm in the midst of the scandal reportedly showed they were tainted as far back as March of 2009. The Agriculture Ministry stated on Thursday that “4,709 farms and businesses are currently closed,” including 4,468 in the state of Lower Saxony, northwest Germany. The farms will be closed until further testing shows that they are found to be clear of contamination with dioxin, a toxic chemical compound that can cause cancer, and will be banned from making any deliveries, the ministry added. Eight of Germany’s 16 states were affected by Thursday’s closures, and this represents a small percentage number of the total 375,000 farms that are in Germany.

The firm in the middle of this investigation, Harles und Jentzsch, which is located in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, is currently alleged to have supplied as much as 3,000 tons of contaminated fatty acids meant only for industrial usage to roughly 25 animal feed makers. The majority of this contaminated acid, approximately 2,500 tons, was delivered in November and December to animal feed producers in Lower Saxony, where it was then used as fodder. The German government said earlier that up to 150,000 tonnes of feed overall were feared to have been contaminated.

Testing on samples from Harles und Jentzsch showed nine samples out of 20 had dioxin levels higher, or much higher than allowed legally, the Schleswig-Holstein ministry said earlier Thursday. A spokesman at the agriculture ministry in Berlin defended the closures by stating that “The states are acting as they must in banning as a precaution — and this in the absence of concrete results from tests — all products, including eggs and meat, which had partially contaminated fodder as their origin. Food safety was the absolute priority.”

The Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Friday that tests conducted on Harles und Jentzsch as far back as March last year had revealed dioxin levels twice the permitted maximum amount. However, the March test was not transmitted to the correct authorities and the agriculture ministry in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein only received the results of the test in late December, the paper said. German Prosecutors have launched an investigation into the company.

This Germany Dioxin food scandal has now spread beyond Germany’s borders, as German authorities informed the European Commission and business partners on Wednesday that 136,000 eggs, or nine tonnes of the product, from contaminated German farms had been exported to the Netherlands, and the hunt for potentially dioxin-tainted eggs had been focused on Great Britain now, the European Commission reported Thursday, although in a statement issued Thursday from Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), they reported that the tainted eggs were not thought to pose a significant threat, reporting that “The mixing of the eggs will have diluted the levels of dioxins and they are not thought to be a risk to health.”

Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner meanwhile called for tighter regulations at the European level to protect the food chain in a telephone conversation with European Commissioner for Health John Dalli. Businesses involved in the making of fatty acids for fodder should not be able to manufacture materials destined for industrial use on the same site, she told the commissioner.

Dioxin, a by-product of burning rubbish and industrial activities, can cause miscarriages and other health problems in humans, including cancer if consumed in high levels. The Agriculture Ministry of Germany has set up a hot line for concerned consumers, of which we could not find as of this writing on the Germany Dioxin food scandal.

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